| The summer break is always a very rewarding time for the young men and women at Koinonia Homes For Teens. The schedule is filled with numerous activities to teach the value of a fun, safe, and sober lifestyle.Each year the house goes on a special trip. This year, House #4, went on their annual excursion to Santa Cruz and Monterey. On the car ride down the boys could hardly wait, but needed a little Starbucks to get properly fueled. The trip began with a bunch of singing, and a little napping.
Upon arriving in Santa Cruz, the group headed downtown to get a slice of pizza with a free T-Shirt at Pizza My Heart. We killed a little time waiting to check in at the hotel by checking out a few local shops, and played a little hacky sack.
After getting settled into the rooms it was off to the ocean for some beach time. The guys spent a few hours riding the waves. It was here where Joseph found a new level of joy. With every wave that crashed over him, pushing him underwater, Joseph would pop out of the water with a bigger smile. For the first time in a long time they felt free to be kids again, not worrying about all the challenges in their lives, but just living in the moment.
That much time in the water made them work up a good appetite, and so we walked a mile to the pier to eat. We sat outside, and a few of the boys for the first time in their lives ate seafood. Diego was all smiles as his seafood kabobs arrived, and it didn’t take long for him to finish them off. Jesse ate a crab melt that he called the best sandwich he has ever eaten; a few others savored the clam chowder. We were all full, and happy. And this was only day one.
The next day it was back to the beach in front of the Boardwalk. Again the boys spent hours in the water, playing Frisbee, and playing in the sand. Lunch was a huge picnic of cheeses, meats and fruit on the beach, and once again they were content to just live in the moment. However, you could see their eyes wander to the amusement park, with an anticipation of the fun they would soon have.
At 5 o’clock everybody got their wrist bands and for the first time in their lives, three boys got on a roller coaster, though with some trepidation. Hearing their screams of joy, seeing the smiles, hearing the laughter reminds you as a staff why you do this job. The roller coaster was a success but the next challenge was the drop shot which basically is a sling shot that you sit in. Once again all the boys participated, once again they screamed with joy. The night continued with bumper cars, dizzying rides, fried food, laughter, and camaraderie. Again they went to bed happy and a little excited.
The last day everybody filled up on the luxurious continental breakfast before checking out of the hotel and heading down the road to Monterey. Upon getting out of the van, the boys found some rocks to climb on near the ocean and stopped to pose for the camera.
It was now off to the Aquarium, where for the first time they saw sharks, seahorses, jellyfish, octopuses, otters, and a kelp forest, among other things. Again the innocent joy of young men who had missed out when they were kids was now present. They stood in wonder, interacted with hosts asking questions, playing games, and finding time to sit and reflect, and just be present in the moment.
The day was capped off with a feast of epic proportions at Bubba Gump’s. The popular items were the Jambalaya, and of course the pounds and pounds of Cajun shrimp as the appetizer. They were full and happy.
The trip home saw a few taking time to rest, a few others talked about the first experiences of each day, and they sang, they laughed, they lived in the moment. It was a joy to be in the presence of these young men who discovered new things, who pushed themselves out of their comfort zones. It was an honor to just live in the moment, and create memories that will last for a lifetime.